Day 56

Wednesday, July 20, 2005SLC
Miles: 6516Hot, so hot
Today was a work day for someone, and someone hung out by the pool in the 101 degree weather, reading Harry Potter. The one who was working sat in the game room, since it was air conditioned. After the workday was over, we decided to head out to the Great Salt Lake. We wound up at this old resort called the Saltaire. At one point it was a grand resort for people wearing lots of clothes (it was the early 1900’s), but now it’s just a shell with a gift shop and some old photos on the walls. It would be kickass concert venue, but apparently they haven’t gotten around to doing something like that yet. They do have a big beach and showers and stuff, so we thought we’d go out and wade.

A few hundred yards of sand that used to be at the bottom of the Lake stood between us and the water, and as we walked across it, we realized that the piles of vegetable matter littering the ground were not piles of vegetable matter at all, but bird carcasses. Ack. As we neared the water, we understood what they meant in one of our guidebooks. The Salt Lake Smell is atrocious. It is so atrocious that we couldn’t get within 50 feet of the water. Ceridwen almost threw up in the sand. In the 101 degree heat, the stagnant salt water, mixed with the stench of dead animals, was really too much to bear. Only by breathing into Keath’s handkerchief did we escape a disgusting accident. Other people were actually swimming in it. They apparently had no noses.

Since the beach was a bust, we headed to Nevada. Because, really, what’s better on a 101 degree day than to drive across the desert? Our goal was really just the Bonneville Salt Flats, but there’s no place to turn around until you get to Nevada. Driving through the fast fields of salt is just surreal, as many things have been on this trip. All around the highway are salt plains, with some mountains glimmering in the very far distance. There was a Morton salt gathering factory, but that was about it. All along the highway, people have left their marks on the salt by spelling out things with rocks. Unfortunately, most are hard to read.

The highlight of the day, by far, was Bonneville. We stopped first at a rest area and walked around a bit. The ground was oddly muddy, as the salt and some water that came from somewhere, mixed into a very sticky substance that stuck to our shoes. We gathered some salt to take with us and headed on to the road that sticks out into the middle of the flats. From here it was truly amazing. The blistering sun was baking the huge white plains, which simply glistened. It was quite a sight. It felt desolate and beautiful and positively inhospitable.

After doing a thorough test of the salt right off the road for both broken glass and spongy spots, we decided to take Vantom out and see if he could break the land speed record. We fell slightly short. Alas. Maybe next year. There was no one else there while we were, so we assumed that nothing was going on, but then, as we were leaving, three sets of headlights approached from the horizon, coming very fast. Just as we began to worry a little about conspiracies and big, black, government-owned trucks, they all turned in perfect formation and raced back off into oblivion. Talk about surreal. It’s possible that Vantom will be a speck in a car commercial.

After winning some money in the little town over the Nevada border, we headed back for the long haul to SLC. It wasn’t so bad, and when we got back, it had cooled off considerably. It was still too hot to cook, so we had dinner at a little, funky Mediterranean place and then wandered the downtown area, looking at Temple Square until they kicked us out, but nicely, since they’re Mormons.